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President George W. Bush said that he would not support the creation of a Palestinian state until the Palestinian people get rid of Yasir Arafat. Bush sketched his vision of a Palestinian state, a vision that included an independent legislature and judiciary and other democratic institutions; Bush also said he wanted Palestine to be a land of free markets without corruption. “I am willing to take my chances and say that this speech will not result in anything,” said Schlomo Ben Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister. “At times I think he is talking about Switzerland and not about the Middle East.” Britain’s foreign secretary Jack Straw criticized Bush’s ultimatum, saying it was up to the Palestinians to choose their own leader. WorldCom, America’s second largest long-distance company, announced that it had hidden $3.8 billion in expenses over the last year in what might be the largest accounting fraud in history. Nasdaq dropped to a five-year low, and trading in WorldCom was suspended. Investors were said to be experiencing a crisis of faith in the capitalist system, and the Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against the company, which was said to be nearing the end of its useful life. Xerox announced it was “reclassifying” $6.4 billion in revenue from the late 1990s. Financial “contagion” was detected in Latin America. Federal prosecutors said they had widened their insider trading investigation of Martha Stewart to include obstruction of justice. The U.S. dollar fell against the euro and the yen, and Europeans were grumbling that America was perhaps not such a safe place to invest anymore.
President Bush called on Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling before the government runs out of money; he said it was the patriotic thing to do. After some hesitation, lawmakers granted his wish. The Internal Revenue Service admitted that it had never gotten around to pursuing 1.3 million taxpayers who owe the government about $16 billion dollars in delinquent taxes. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that 22,000 devices worldwide are vulnerable to terrorist exploitation in the manufacture of a “dirty bomb”; the agency said that every country has the materials for such a bomb and that more than 100 countries had not taken adequate steps to protect radioactive materials. The F.B.I., which issued a secret alert to law-enforcement officials that terrorists might strike on July 4, was busy checking the library records of people whom they suspect of being terrorists. Federal officers searched the home of a biologist in Maryland as part of the ongoing investigation into last year’s anthrax attacks but said they had found no evidence of wrongdoing. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were infecting monkeys with smallpox in hopes of creating a better vaccine for the virus. The dean of the school of public health at Johns Hopkins University said that this was “an abhorrent experiment by government idiots.” Peter Jahrling, the project’s lead scientist, reassured reporters: “We’re not interested in killing monkeys capriciously. Sometimes I sit bolt upright in the middle of the night,” he said. “I do have a conscience.”
The United Nations issued a report on China’s AIDS crisis characterizing the epidemic there as “beyond belief.” The United States vetoed the renewal of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia because American peacekeeping troops were not exempted from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. President Bush extended death benefits to same-sex partners of officers killed in the line of duty and officially transferred his presidential powers to Vice President Dick Cheney for a few hours while doctors inserted a lighted scope up his rectum. After his colonoscopy, the President went jogging. A British theater company decided to rename its production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame to The Bellringer of Notre Dame because it was afraid of offending hunchbacks. Doctors in India removed a 1.2 kilogram ball of hair from a sixteen-year-old girl’s stomach. Chinese archaeologists discovered seven ancient bronze dildos. The medicine man at the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona called for a rain dance. The Vatican banned smoking. Indonesia banned the export of logs. Britain’s Tate Modern revealed that it had paid 22,000 pounds for a limited-edition can of shit created in 1961 by the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni. “What we are doing with this work was looking at a lot of issues that are pertinent to 20th century art, like authorship and the production of art,” said a spokesman. “It was a seminal work.”
More from Roger D. Hodge:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”